The British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland and members of its Patient Liaison Group welcomed today's Northern Ireland Assembly debate on "Health Provision for Older People" (Tuesday 28 April 2009).
Dr Brian Patterson, Chairman of the BMA's Northern Ireland Council said: "We are pleased that local politicians have instigated this debate within the Assembly. We firmly believe that older people should have equal access to specialist treatment and be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
"We have long insisted that services for older people should be person-centred and properly resourced in terms of both staff and funding. Healthcare for older people should be easily accessible and appropriate to an individual's needs, irrespective of where they live".
Steve McBride, Chairman of the Long Term Conditions Alliance and member of the BMA(NI)'s Patient Liaison Group, echoed these sentiments. He said: "It is good that MLAs are taking forward such a bread and butter issue. As the proportion of people aged 65 and over continues to rise, the levels of chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, stroke and dementia, to name but a few, will also increase.
"It is therefore essential that high standards of effective healthcare for older people are enhanced now to ameliorate the strain that the increase in these diseases will put on a finitely-resourced healthcare system".
Much care for older people is provided by unpaid carers, such as family and friends.
Christine Best, Chief Executive of Crossroads Caring for Carers and member of the BMA(NI)'s Patient Liaison Group, said: "Demographic changes, such as greater geographical separation between older people and their families, will result in decreasing levels of informal care and an increasing need for professional health and social care.
"We would welcome full implementation of the Caring for Carers strategy, and hope that this debate highlights the important role that carers play in our society".